Now, this sounds just plain self-destructive. Like, who the heck wants their immune system suppressed and have a whole lot of sugar dropped into their system. Just does not seem fair. But this is what cortisol does to preserve us while we are under high stress. I have found it pretty handy during my own high-stress situations while in the military, working long hours or competing in kick-boxing. It often spared me injury, excessive pain and fatigue in risky situations.

However, when we are not under extreme physical exertion, cortisol can actually harm us by:

· Slowing healing

· Disrupting sleep patterns

· Causing weight gain

· Slowing muscle gain

· Increasing blood pressure

· Impair learning

Now without some form of handling this cortisol, we can bring on more damage with:

1. Caffeine

2. Sleep deprivation.

3. Severe trauma and extreme stress

4. Burnout. (No surprise there)

5. Commuting.

6. Anorexia Nervosa

This is why people under high stress and sleep deprived such as: police, paramedics, nurses, doctors, university students and soldiers develop illnesses and weight gain. New parents, especially mothers, take note.

Now for the good news: You can reduce the cortisol in your system with:

1. Magnesium supplements after aerobic exercise.

2. Proper nutrition and high level physical conditioning

3. Music therapy. Note that the music that is moderate decreases cortisol levels, while the faster music raises cortisol levels.

4. Massage therapy

5. Laughing and crying

6. Black tea

7. Regular sex

8. (Get this) Dancing the Argetine Tango.

Maybe I could sum up the whole reducing cortisol strategy: take time to relax and have fun.

TANGO AND WEIGHT LOSS

Ever see the Tango scene by Al Pacino in the movie, Scent of a Woman? You got to admit, it was pretty classy.

There was this hype over the Tango in the 90’s which I never really got a chance to debunk. As a guy, I have to admit, it has more class and grace than the bump and grind of the night club crowd. As a researcher, I was amazed at the effects on the human body and mind.

Psychology Professors Cynthia Ouiroga Murcia Phd and Stephan Bongard from the Goethe University Frankfurt and Musicology professor Gunter Kreutz from the Carl von Ossietzky University conducted a study on the effects of tango dancing on the dancer’s stress hormonal levels. The experiment involved measuring the cortisol levels in different subject’s saliva before, during and after they danced.

What the researchers found was that regular dancing with partner and music lowered the cortisol levels in both the male and female dancers. Dancing alone or without music was significantly less beneficial than dancing with a partner and with the music.

Now, the results get really interesting. The tango dancing is a moderate activity at about 55% exertion capacity for most people, so they do not really reach the cortisol-producing phase. Whereas, the average night club fast dancing is a higher exertion activity and typically burns more calories than the tango. However, this type of dancing also raised the cortisol levels. So, maybe the dancers burned more calories. But, they were also burning out.

Passive listening to music, tended to increase testosterone in women and lower testosterone in men. (Watch out, guys.) But, active tango dancing did not affect the testosterone levels in either dancer.

In conclusion, I would toss the myth of tango dancing as being “girly.” It has more class and health benefits than the random night club shake up.